Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Bell: Communications basics; more pre-bond input sessions

October 23, 2012


• Lawrence school Superintendent Rick Doll says he's not necessarily worried about the new School Efficiency Task Force appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback. Nor is he terribly concerned about the web portal set up recently to solicit anonymous tips from the public about how schools are currently wasting money.

In fact, Doll said, the Lawrence school district already has a similar task force of its own at the local level, a school finance advisory group that routinely gets feedback from community members about where money might be getting wasted, or how things might be done more efficiently.

The main difference, he said, is that the local group communicates directly with school administrators.

"So it's feedback from people in the community," Doll said. I'm good with the feedback. It's just that you need to have educators in the room so you can digest that and put it in context of what it really looks like in a school system. How can you have a conversation about efficiency if you don't have somebody from the organization in there?"

Officials in the Eudora district expressed similar sentiments. They welcome suggestions from the public on how they can be more efficient and effective.

As the Journal-World has been reporting, Brownback's task force was criticized from the start for the fact that it initially included no one with professional experience working in public schools.

But the thing that seemed to put people most on edge was the announcement of a new web portal seeking anonymous tips about wasteful school spending. it had all the flavor of a police department's Crime Stopper Hotline, like they were saying, "We already know a crime has been committed. We just need witnesses to come forward with the evidence."

In truth, there's nothing at all unusual about governors appointing efficiency task forces. Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius formed several of them. That was one of her campaign promises in 2002, to perform a "top-to-bottom review" of all state government operations to look for savings and efficiencies.

What seems to have caused Brownback the most grief over this is not the substance of his idea, but simply the way it was introduced. One has to wonder how much push-back there would have been if he had put a more positive spin on the new web portal "inviting public comments and suggestions," rather than openly seeking "anonymous reporting."

It reminds one of the old adage about attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar.

• There are two more opportunities this week for the public to give Lawrence school district officials their thoughts and feedback about a proposed bond issue to fund building improvements and technology upgrades.

The next input session will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Hillcrest Elementary, 1045 Hilltop Drive.

Another will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at New York School, 936 New York.

• Have news about local schools you'd like to share with the community? Call me at 832-7259, or email


aRobot 5 years ago

Hmmmm, I'm pretty sure that people within USD497 have expressed deep concerns about wasted money, stolen property, hiring friends and relatives over qualified applicants, and nickel-and-diming schools in order to boost department funds for spending on things that will never see the inside of a school. There are people running around with USD497 credit cards who only have to answer to friends or relatives about expenditures, and contractors who get hired for projects even though they're not capable of completing the project within any kind of acceptable timeframe or within acceptable industry standards. Why hire the best contractor for the job when you can hire the one you like! When this happens USD497 breaks up payment for the contract into small amounts in order to circumvent the required open bidding process for large, expensive projects. The list goes on and on and on...

Oh, and let's also mention that the communication between upper administration and the people in the schools and the people in the community is about the WORST IT'S EVER BEEN. Employees are afraid of retaliation for raising concerns, and the public is ignored.

I despise Brownback for his policies and his politics, but if his task force can put an end to the cronyism and corruption that goes unchecked at USD497 then I'm all for it. Current USD497 administration, you've had your chance to clean up the mess, but instead you've chosen to focus on sweeping the filth under the carpet. Well, the carpet is looking pretty lumpy and it's starting to stink.

NotRelated 5 years ago

Not a chance I'll vote for the bond issue, and not a chance I will waste my time with their Kangaroo court that would be the "input session". The Administrator's heads are so far up their own cabooses they will never have the auditory senses necessary to hear anything the community is saying over their own flatulence that goes along with their waste.

Furthermore this newly placed school reporter has clearly shown where his allegiance stands. The editorializing about the Governor's web-portal being implemented wrong is beyond simply reporting facts.

Can we please get an actual journalist who will look at the schools from every angle? A journalist who will dig for all the facts? What we don't need is one more mouthpiece for this school administration spewing the company line. This is a public organization. This is the public's money. Treat the Administration as stewards please, not as the all knowing authority.

aRobot 5 years ago

Interesting that none of the LJW regular posters seem to care much about money wasted locally. Good thing everyone loves to yell and scream about fiscal responsibility at the federal level, but nobody wants to waste time worrying about money here in Lawrence. It's not like we pay local taxes, and I'm sure the bond issue will magically pay for itself.

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